NEW YORK (Feb. 3)
The American Jewish Congress said today that repeal of the Blaine Amendment, a 76-year-old state constitutional ban on state aid to religious schools, would “mark the beginning of the end of public education as we know it” and would be an assault on “the religious liberties of millions of citizens of New York State who would see their tax money used to promote the religious beliefs of others.” A bill to repeal the amendment was sent to the State Senate floor yesterday and is expected to come to a vote tomorrow. Noting the urgency of the situation, Theodore J. Kolish, chairman of the Executive Committee of the AJ Congress’ Metropolitan Council, will address a news conference tomorrow. The conference is being sponsored by PEARL, a coalition of civic and religious groups for Public Education and Religious Liberty. The AJC is a member. An AJ Congress spokesman told the JTA today that “a grave threat to the survival of the public school system in New York State” is posed by “those who intend to open the treasury of the state to provide tax funds for religiously affiliated schools.”
The bill, supported by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, is not expected to come up in the State Assembly this week. In the last session of the Senate the bill was passed, but it died in the Assembly. Now that the Republicans dominate both branches of the State Legislature, its chances for passage appear improved. The bill comes at a time when many Jewish and Catholic parochial schools are in financial trouble and contend they will be forced to close their doors–thus causing an increase in student enrollment in the public schools–unless they get aid from the state.